Don Chisciotte. Tragicommedia in 5 atti
By Gherardo Gherardi.
Edition and translation by Guillermo Carrascón.
Gherardo Gherardi was a leading figure in the Italian commercial theatre of the inter-war period, either as a successful author or as the director of the experimental company of the Teatro Comunale of Bologna, the city where he was born. Perhaps because of his declared sympathy for fascism, he has been relegated to a low profile as a screenwriter of films, among which Ladri di biciclette (De Sica, 1948) stands out. Among his abundant production for the stage, the five-act tragicomedy Don Chisciotte, of which the Spanish translation is presented here along with the text of the first and only Italian edition (Florence, Vallecchi, 1927), represents a milestone for his mastery of dramatic and inter-semitic technique and for its representativeness as the first serious Italian adaptation of the 20th century, the first in a long series of stage performances in which Cervantes’ novel and the mythical figures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza serve as a vehicle for the most varied political, social or existential claims.
Strongly imbued by the Unamunians’ neo-Romantic and idealistic reading —largely still in use today in the Italian collective imagination—, Gherardi’s theatrical version of Don Quixote manages to construct an effective summary of an epochal reading of the novel, from which it is possible to establish a political connection of the work with the Italian quixotism sponsored by Giovanni Papini. In his theatrical interpretation, Gherardi slants the figure of the hidalgo towards a conception of heroic and militant idealism, which, without reaching such a clear profession of political faith as his, is surely situated in similar positions. The playwright manages, however, to carry out a dramatic recreation of the character and the fable of the novel, politicised indeed, but discreetly, so that it could count on the acceptance of the bourgeois public, without excessively distorting Don Quixote and surrounding him with an attractive and dignified aura; that is, rescuing him from the fate of the comic figure that had afflicted him in the various previous dramatic adaptations, from the works of the Sienese Girolamo Gigli (1660-1722) or Giovanni Claudio Pasquini (1695-1763) to Don Chisciotte alle nozze di Gamaccio (1830), by Ferrero and Mercadante.
The rhetorical manoeuvre of converting a vaguely known, rather comic figure, known for his madness and for his absurd and impossible undertakings, into a vector of a tacit ideological approach to contemporary political positions, highlighting his desire for justice and his longing for an impossible ideal, is put into practice in the theatrical text of the Gherardian Don Chisciotte, with an important dose of theatrical savoir faire, so that the tragicomedy becomes a significant testimony of the various and numerous dramatic appropriations of which Cervantes’ masterpiece has been the object during the Italian 20th century.